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Anxiety Ups Long-Term Stroke Risk

Update Date: Dec 19, 2013 04:42 PM EST

Anxiety can increase the risk of stroke, a new study suggests.

The mental disorder was linked to stroke even after accounting for factors like depression.

The 22-year study involved a nationally representative group do 6,019 people between 25 and 74 years old. Participants underwent interviews, blood tests, medical examinations and psychological questionnaires. Researchers also looked at hospital, nursing home reports or death certificates to track strokes.

The findings revealed that even modest increases in anxiety were associated with greater stroke risk. Researchers said this was true even after accounting for other factors.

The study found that people in the highest third of anxiety symptoms were 33 percent more likely to suffer stroke.

"Everyone has some anxiety now and then. But when it's elevated and/or chronic, it may have an effect on your vasculature years down the road," Maya Lambiase, Ph.D., study author and cardiovascular behavioral medicine researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a news release.

The findings may be partly explained by the fact that highly anxious people are more likely to smoke and be physically inactive. She said that higher stress hormone levels, heart rate or blood pressure could also be factors.

The findings are published in the journal Stroke.

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